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West, TX, fertilizer blast was preventable, CSB says

April 22, 2014

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West, TX – The 2013 deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX, was preventable and occurred because the company and federal, state and local agencies failed to identify and correct hazards, Chemical Safety Board Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso said April 22.

Moure-Eraso made his comments during a teleconference with reporters to announce preliminary findings of CSB’s investigation into the tragedy.

The ammonium nitrate explosion killed 14 people, most of whom were firefighters responding to the blaze at the facility. It was caused by a fire in a wooden warehouse, in which as much as 60 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in wooden bins, CSB said.

During the teleconference, Moure-Eraso recommended that companies adopt an “inherently safer” approach to managing chemical hazard risks. Examples include storing chemicals in non-combustible facilities, storing fewer quantities in a single location and using a chemical blend to decrease the potential for a chemical detonation.

CSB reiterated previous recommendations from OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency to revise and strengthen their respective Process Safety Management Standard and Risk Management Program. Both agencies are in the process of reviewing those standards, which a CSB representative called “promising.”